Opinion: Is British TV Finally Giving Sitcoms A Chance To Grow Again?

Count Arthur strong

Great news today that the BBC has recommissioned Count Arthur Strong. I was concerned that the move from BBC2 to BBC1 for the second series had been the last throw of the dice and that if it didn’t ascend to Miranda-like status it would not be back.

I got the impression that while it was well-talked about and generally well-received it did not quite establish itself in the national consciousness in series two. The first episode notched up nearly 2 million viewers, but that was hardly headline news. The post-watershed slot probably didn’t help. Unlike Mrs Brown’s Boys, which had its fair share of feckin’ smut there was nothing in this funny oddball series that meant it had to go out late. 

So it is admirable that the BBC is sticking with it. The general consensus is that these days if a series does not establish itself in its first run it is doomed. Unlike the old days when Only Fools and Horses had three series to bed in the accepted theory is that modern TV demands instant swim-or-sink success.

But maybe things are changing. Count Arthur Strong bodes well for the Beeb while over on C4 Man Down is returning next month. The Greg Davies sitcom had a lot of advance press and some good reviews when it first came out without really hitting its stride.

And sadly this new series will be without Rik Mayall, who was so perfectly cast as Davies’ madcap dad. But C4 is sticking to its guns and giving the show a firm push. As is BBC3 with Greg Davies in Cuckoo, which is also coming back and has already had to cope with a major cast change, with Andy Samberg leaving after series one.

There’s an old saying that even a stopped clock is right twice a day, so maybe it is just luck that TV is showing some good sense for a change and having some confidence in its product. But maybe this is a subtle change of policy. TV is finally giving obvious talent a chance to grow. Maybe the BBC will now show even more insight and put Count Arthur out in a Miranda-shaped pre-9pm slot. Who knows, maybe then it will end up lasting longer than Only Fools and Horses.

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